norCAL SBDC DREAM FUND training program FAQ

Dream Fund Overview

Grant Eligibility

Grant Eligibility Criteria

For businesses seeking grant funding…
  • Must be formally registered to do business in one of the northern 36 counties of California.
    • Businesses can start the program without being registered but must be able to show proof of registration prior to being referred for a grant.
    • Eligible entrepreneurs will be asked to provide whatever documentation is required to legally do business in their area, including, but not necessarily:
      • Articles of Incorporation
      • Articles of Organization
      • Business License
      • Fictitious Business Name Statement
    • ** Sole proprietors without an Fictitious Business Name can apply! **
  • Business registration must have occurred on or after July 1st, 2019.
  • Entities must also demonstrate they are ‘in business’ by having completed at least one of the following:
    • Has made the first sale, or
    • Has hired at least one employee, or 
    • Has created a business banking relationship, or 
    • Has spent money on business expenses (this includes legal and accounting fees),
    • Obtained capital for the business.
  • Must be a business with 5 employees or less and $1 million or less in annual receipts.
  • Must agree to all applicable terms and conditions.
  • Must not be a current or former (within the last 18 months) staff or immediate family of a Northern California SBDC Network staff or consultant.
  • Must not have received a grant from the California Dream Fund previously, either from the Norcal SBDC or another participating program – only one grant per entity is allowed.

Important Note:

  • Grants are subject to fund availability, and while there is a discrete amount set aside for Northern California entrepreneurs, the funds are finite and may be allocated before everyone that enrolls completes the required steps. Enrollment does not guarantee access to funds.
  • Additional screening steps may exist to verify identity (but not citizenship) to prevent fraud and abuse.
  • Individual grant funding amounts are predetermined and not subject to decision or revision by the Norcal SBDC Network or its partners.
  • Additional terms and conditions apply.



Who can enroll in the Dream Fund Training Program?

  • The Dream Fund Training Program is a specific training program and set of requirements to prequalify businesses to receive a Dream Fund Grant. Only businesses that are registered on or after July 1st, 2019 will be eligible for funding following participation in the Dream Fund Training Program. If that is not you, but you are still interested in learning with us, the Norcal SBDC has extensive training programs available to all small businesses, and we encourage interested parties to get in touch with their local center here.

How much money are we talking about?

  • Eligible entities will be able to apply for up to $10,000, this amount is predetermined by the program rules and is based on business type, subject to validation, and non-negotiable.
    • Brick-and-Mortar – $10,000
    • Childcare – $10,000
    • Construction Trades – $10,000
    • Green Technology/Infrastructure – $10,000
    • Manufacturing – $10,000
    • Professional/Scientific/Technical – $10,000
    • Agriculture, Wildfire Mitigation/Forestry – $10,000
    • E-Commerce/Marketplace – $5,000
    • Service/Cottage Industry – $5,000
    • Small Lab/Makers Space – $5,000

Wait, not everyone gets money?

  • Funds are limited, and only available to businesses who complete all aspects of the training program (including training and meeting with an SBDC Advisor). The Norcal SBDC anticipates approximately 1,000 grants will be awarded through the Norcal SBDC Dream Fund Training Program. The program is first come, first served, and it is possible that not all who complete the training and counseling will be eligible for funding.

There’s that word ‘eligible’ that keeps being used, what does that mean?

  • Entities that are eligible for up to $10,000 grants from the State of California:
    • Must be able to demonstrate they are a business registered in California on or after July 1st, 2019.
    • Must be able to demonstrate they are currently in business by the end of the program, meaning:
      • Has made a first sale; or 
      • Has hired at least 1 employee; or 
      • Has created a business banking relationship; or 
      • Has spent money on business expenses; this may include legal and accounting fees; or
      • Obtained capital for the business.
    • Must complete all trainings of the program.
    • Must complete at least one one-on-one counseling session with a Norcal SBDC Advisor.
    • Must agree to complete periodic surveys sharing business performance data.
    • Must not have been employed by the Norcal SBDC Network or one of its centers in the past 18 months or be immediate family of an employee.
    • Must not have received a Dream Fund Grant being offered by another entity.

What if I do not know when my business was registered?

  • You will need to demonstrate proof of business registration as part of the grant application.

What are the next steps after signing up?

  • Following sign up, you will be enrolled in the next Dream Fund Training Series. These commence on April 7th and June 23rd, with a third one if needed to be offered starting on or about October 6th. Watch your email for an invite to the Zoom webinar. Clients that signed up for but 4could not be accommodated in the April 7th series will be preferentially selected for the June series.
  • After completing the first webinar, you will receive further instructions about subsequent webinars, each training program is seven sessions in total.
  • You will also receive instructions via email about setting up your initial interview, where you will have an approximately half hour phone call with a member of the SBDC staff to gather additional data and provide further instructions and guidance.
  • After you complete the fourth session, you will receive instructions via email about setting up a one-on-one counseling session, where you will have a one-hour phone call or videoconference with a member of the SBDC staff to provide you help in growing or building your business.
  • Following successful completion of the seventh session and your counseling session, you will receive instructions on how to enter documentation into the grant portal. The SBDC will also reach out to set up a short exit interview, to help with the portal, and provide guidance on next steps. This is anticipated to take about 15 minutes and will occur via phone or videoconference.
  • SBDC staff will remain available to support you in applying for the grant and will also connect you to your local center to explore the additional resources available to you going forward.

What if I meet MOST of these criteria, but not all of them?

  • While these requirements are statewide and non-negotiable, eligibility can be accomplished while going through training. Meaning if you feel you can accomplish the eligibility criteria within the training period, you are welcome to sign up. Funds are subject to availability and will be prioritized for eligible businesses as they complete training and counseling.

Is there a deadline to apply?

  • There is no deadline to apply, but the program is first come, first served. The first training series starts on April 7th and once that class is full, applicants will be diverted to the June training series. If funding hasn’t been exhausted, again going by first come, first served, there will be another training series offered in October for those still interested.

Can businesses sign up for more than one Dream Fund training program?  Can they receive more than one grant?

  • The California Dream Fund is a statewide initiative, and there are other entities that are providing their own training program in addition to the Norcal SBDC. There is no restriction on how many programs an entity can sign up with, however, individual entities can only receive one grant.

My schedule is pretty hectic, when are the sessions?  How many sessions are there? What if I miss one of the sessions, will I have to start over?

  • For those that enter the Dream Fund Training Program, training sessions will occur as live webinar broadcasts. There will be seven webinars of between 90 minute and three hours in length, offered over a course of five weeks. Credentials to join the webinar will be emailed to the address used to sign up for the Dream Fund Training Program. The Norcal SBDC will make every effort to schedule webinars at reasonable times, however, for those that cannot make the webinar at its scheduled time, a recording will be made available for a limited time afterwards. 

Is eligibility for funding dependent on income status?  Citizenship?  Age?  

  • Neither income status nor citizenship status are questions that will be asked to determine eligibility. Applicants must be over 18 years old.

Do I get to choose which Dream Fund Training Series I can participate in?

  • The Norcal SBDC is offering a full Dream Fund Training Program in English and Spanish, and participants can choose which one they want to participate in. If selected for the April session, and unable to attend, please contact the program to reschedule for the summer session.

Will all participants who complete training be referred to Lendistry?

  • The program is first come, first served, and all eligible participants who complete training and counseling before funds are fully expended will be recommended to Lendistry.

How many grants will be awarded?

  • The Norcal SBDC anticipates around 1,000 grants to be awarded to businesses in Northern California.